Can’t find a franchise quarterback? Shop around for the best antidote.

If an NFL team doesn’t have a quarterback of the caliber of Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes, one of the best ways to stay competitive is to load up on pass rushers so that its defense can sack opponents for submission. On the other hand, if a team is lucky enough to hire a specific quarterback, its best chance at winning the Super Bowl is to juice up the crowd near it to neutralize its counterpart.

Viewed from that perspective, the NFL is not a quarterback-driven league, a quarterback disruption league, in which teams are caught in an escalating arms race to generate as much pass pressure as possible.

Last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers showed just how valuable the sack specialist has become by signing TJ Watts to a four-year contract extension. $80 million guaranteed guarantee. Only four players, all quarterbacks, currently earn more guaranteed money than watts; His Steelers teammate Ben Roethlisberger, a future Hall of Famer, is not one of them.

Watt rewarded the Steelers for sacking Josh Allen twice and forcing the rumble Sunday 23-16 Troubled by the Buffalo Bills, a top Super Bowl contender. With Watt, Cameron Hayward and newcomer Melvin Ingram leading the Rush to Pittsburgh, the team was able to put pressure on Allen without blitzing, which prevented him from hitting or challenging the Steelers’ secondary with too many deep throws. .

Watt is the younger brother of three-time defensive player of the year JJ Watts, who signed with the Arizona Cardinals in March. Elder Watt got off to a quiet start on Sunday, but his teammate, two-time All-Pro Chandler Jones, dismissed Ryan Tanhill five times and forced him to rumble twice, leaving the Tennessee Titans 38-13. reversed. The Cardinals haven’t had a winning season since 2015, but the Watt-Jones tandem makes them reliable playoff contenders.

Pass rushers are best collected in bundles: a Jones or a Watt can be double-teamed if that is the defense’s only threat. But there are only so many dual teams to go around. NS The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Demonstrated This Theory Super Bowl Lv When Shaquille Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh, Vita Wea and Devin White overwhelmed the injury-ravaged Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive line, leading to a long evening of three sacks, two interceptions and desperate Mahomes, 31- I got into a scuffle. 9 Buccaneers Route.

The NFL is often called the “copycat league”, but it is more than a “cut and paste term paper from Wikipedia” league: coaches and officials are not very subtle about their plagiarism. Once they saw the Buccaneers treat Mahomes like tennis balls at the dog park, nearly every contender sought to raise the crowd near them.

The Biles drafted University of Miami defender Gregory Russo (15.5 sacks in his final college season) in the first round and Wake Forest defender Carlos “Boogie” Basham (20.5 collegiate sacks) in the second.

The Titans lured away sack specialist Bud Dupree (eight sacks in an injury-shortened 2020 season) away from the Steelers, who kept the momentum by signing Ingram (49 career sacks for the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers).

The New England Patriots guaranteed two-time Pro Bowl defender Matt Juden $32 million for the Baltimore Ravens, so the Ravens signed veteran Justin Houston (97.5 career sacks).

The Cleveland Browns added Jedvin Clooney to a defensive line that already had Miles Garrett, a fellow No.

For the Buccaneers, he pushed the envelope of salary cap economics to keep his veteran pass rushers away from the free agent market, then drafted University of Washington standout Joe Tryon-Shoyinka (eight sacks in his final collegiate season) in the first round. prepared. The Buccaneers sometimes line up with six dangerous pass rushers, who stalk five Dallas Cowboys offensive linemen. in season opener on Thursday.

Dak Prescott was not sacked, but he only had an average time of 2.39 seconds in the 31–29 Cowboys defeat, According to Next Gen Stats. It’s hard to turn Brady out when forced to treat a football like a hot potato.

The pass-rusher arms race is driven by supply and demand. A Brady or Mahomes only comes along once per generation, while top pass-rushers like the Watt Brothers or Joey and Nick Bossa (stars for the Chargers and San Francisco 49ers, respectively) sometimes get two in a house. Each year’s quarterback class has a few members who have the potential to develop into upper-field starters, but the college ranks are full of agile, ornate 250-plus-pound defenders ready to join hordes of robbers. Huh.

The natural reaction of all these barbarians at the gate is to build strong walls. Brady rules his territory from behind an experienced and well-compensated offensive line. The Chiefs spent all-cap dollars and draft picks they could muster to ensure that Mahomes would never live through another experience like Super Bowl LV; His rebuilt offensive line passed his first stress test in a 33–29 win against the Browns.

And then there’s Jameis Winston, who inherited both Drew Brees’ experienced offensive line and a strong defense led by pass rushers Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport. Formerly an obstruction-prone despair, Winston miraculously blossomed into a skilled field general, while Aaron Rodgers was driven to desperation (only a short cab ride, in his case) at 38-3. The New Orleans Saints Explode the Green Bay Packers.

Old school coaches like to claim that defense wins championships and games are won and lost in the trenches. Indeed, the days of steel curtains and dreaded foursomes are far behind us. Championships are usually won by elite quarterbacks, but the pressure of a pass can make such quarterbacks mortal for a few hours.

That’s what happened to Brady in the Super Bowls that ended the 2007 and 2011 seasons, long before his Buccaneers did the same to the Mahomes. If a team can’t win the quarterback lottery, creating a vicious pass rush is an effective, cost-effective option.

However, depending on Watt’s new contract, it may not be that cheap anymore.

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